"Dozens of armed federal agents swept into Blanding, Utah, on June 10, arresting 17 people there and ending a two-year federal sting aimed at a black market in ancient American Indian artifacts. Three weeks later, anger and grief persist."
"'There's going to be a scar for a long time,' says Lynette Adams, a retired schoolteacher in the predominately Mormon town of 3,600. 'There are some pretty strong feelings — not about what people are being accused of, but how they were arrested.'
"The agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Land Management wore body armor, waved weapons, screamed instructions and shackled neighbors at the wrists, ankles and waists, according to witnesses. And they did that with suspects who ranged from 27 to 73 years old.
Eight agents were assigned to each home raided.
"'These aren't terrorists,' Adams complains, her voice rising. 'They're not rapists and murderers.'"
Source: Los Angeles Times
"'I’ve been in his office when it was clear full of Native Americans,' Robert Carroll, who is 77 and a member of the Mormon Church, said after attending an emotional funeral service for Dr. Redd at a Mormon center here last week. 'He took everybody.'
"Yet even as residents of Blanding have joined in grief, the circumstances of Dr. Redd’s death have shocked this tidy little town and threatened the delicate cross-cultural balance here that he helped preserve. Dr. Redd, 60, was found dead of a suicide a day after federal prosecutors charged him, his wife and 22 others with stealing, selling and trading Indian artifacts from the ancestral lands that stretch out from here in every direction.
Deseret News editorial page editor Jay Evensen
"On the one hand, someone like the 78-year-old director of the San Juan Visitor Center, an inductee into the Utah Tourism Hall of Fame, has demonstrated his love for ancient cultures by creating a scenic byway to promote understanding of ancient Americans. "On the other hand, he of all people should know better than to loot. "Maybe the feds could have been more delicate in how they arrested people, but everyone will have his or her day in court. And my guess is from now on a lot more people will understand just how serious it is to collect relics from land that belongs to all of us."
Source: New York Times
On Friday, a second defendant, Steven L. Shrader of Santa Fe, N.M., was found dead of two self-inflicted gunshot wounds behind an elementary school in DeKalb County, Ill., according to the authorities there. Mr. Shrader, 56, had turned himself in to law enforcement officials in Albuquerque after being served a warrant in the case.....Winnebago County, Ill., Coroner Sue Fiduccia said Shrader was in Illinois to visit his mother. Fiduccia also said Shrader had left a note. Hickey said the contents of the note would not be disclosed
In the early morning hours of June 10, hundreds of federal agents descended on the small town of Blanding in southern Utah, arresting 16 residents for looting archaeological sites on public and tribal lands. One of the accused was James Redd, 60, the town's prominent doctor, who killed himself the next day.
Archaeologist Winston Hurst, who was born in Blanding and still lives there, is a staunch advocate of archaeological preservation. At the same time, the people of his hometown have a long tradition of pothunting, which Hurst argues won't be eradicated by enforcement alone.
The looting problem is complicated by the fact that collecting artifacts on private property is legal. Does that muddy the issue in the minds of some pothunters?
Yes, but having said that, I think it would be a big mistake to criminalize collecting on private land. That would create a revolution in conservative places like this. If these people want to protect the archaeology, they will, if they want to tear it up, they will. Sending in divisions of law enforcement won't make a difference. It's all about hearts and minds.
Just short of four weeks after, Dr. Redd, the husband and father killed himself, his wife and daughter pleaded guilty to digging up artifacts on tribal and government land and selling them in the sting operation.
"A two-year federal sting aimed at a black market in ancient American Indian artifacts has yielded its first guilty pleas. The plea agreements distinguish this artifacts prosecution from earlier efforts. "'We have grown jaded and cynical about prosecutions over the years because it seemed so few ever stuck,' says author David Roberts, who writes about the region's artifacts and ruins in his book In Search of the Old Ones. Roberts calls the two guilty pleas 'extremely significant and surprising.'
"The pleas come from a family long involved in artifacts collecting and targeted for prosecution in the past. "Jeanne Redd, 59, of Blanding, Utah, told a federal judge in Salt Lake City that she's guilty of seven felony counts of theft and trafficking. Redd admitted that she dug up four centuries-old sandals on U.S. Forest Service land and then sold them to an artifacts dealer working undercover with federal agents.
"Redd also showed the dealer turquoise and effigy bird pendants, a gourd containing a necklace, a 'hafted' ax and a mug that she knew came from federal land or Indian reservations. "Redd's daughter Jerrica, 37, appeared just before her mother to enter her own guilty pleas. She was charged after prosecutors reviewed evidence seized in a raid on June 10. Jerrica Redd admitted digging up a vase, seed jar and 'pottery vessel' on the Navajo Reservation.
"In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to seek 'the lower end' of prison time for the Redds. Jeanne faces decades behind bars if given the maximum sentences. Jerrica faces up to nine years in prison. "The actual sentences will be determined by a federal judge in September after completion of presentencing reports.
"'This is an important milestone in the case,' says Carlie Christensen, an assistant U.S. attorney in Utah. 'We hope this will discourage people from going out on those lands and stealing, removing or destroying these really unique and rare artifacts.'"
Further statements from the prosecution said that the importance of this can not be under estimated. Guilty pleas are very rare in these cases.
Source: Seattle Times
This time, said Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission, "Did the heavy-handedness of the federal government in making the arrest contribute to the death of a doctor? His wife told me they handcuffed him and shackled his legs. They were yelling and screaming at him that he was a liar, that he would never practice medicine again."
The Department of Justice portrayed the arrests as evidence of the Obama administration's commitment to justice for American Indians. Brett Tolman, the U.S. attorney for Utah, expressed sympathy for Redd and Shrader but said the arrests "went according to procedure."
"These are sacred artifacts that we should all care about," Tolman said. "Instead what we're talking about are the frustrations of those that are accused of these crimes. I think that is a tragedy."
While many Indians expressed sympathy for Redd and some questioned the arrests, others said they were upset that people they had known all their lives — including Redd, who delivered many of their children and cared for their parents — could be guilty of stealing what they consider sacred.
Blanding is a city in San Juan County, Utah, United States. The population was 3,162 at the 2000 census, making it the most populated city in San Juan County. It was settled in the late 19th century by Mormon settlers, predominantly from the famed Hole-In-The-Rock expedition. Economic contributors include mineral processing, mining, agriculture, local commerce, tourism, and transportation. Blanding is located near both the Navajo and White Mesa Ute Native American reservations, and a significant percentage of Blanding's population has family ties to these nearby cultures. Blanding is a gateway to an abundance of nearby natural and archaeological resources, including The Dinosaur Museum, Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley and the Four Corners area, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell), Cedar Mesa archaeological and wilderness area, the San Juan River including Goosenecks State Park, and the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. It is located approximately 1 hour south of the popular recreation hub, Moab, and Arches
Source:Salt Lake Tribune
In the Four Corners area, pre-Columbian ruins, potsherds, arrowheads and other relics dot the landscape by the thousands. "You can't walk two miles in any direction without running into an Anasazi site," Holliday said. "In San Juan County, [collecting relics] is a hobby for many people."
Every rain turns over new items, and residents say they can't add a carport or string a fence line without encountering kiva walls or unearthing baskets and pots. Blanding residents say their ancestors were paid by museums to find artifacts.
Ted Black said his mother's family used the abundant ancient pottery as its dishware. He said practically every home in Blanding now has china-hutch and mantle displays of artifacts, many of them handed down and others collected during the common practice of Sunday after-church "treasure hunt" outings.
"I'm proud of my little collection," said Blanding resident Wendy Bunting, who still goes out looking for surface pottery pieces and arrowheads.....many residents say they believe looting and selling artifacts, particularly from graves, is wrong.
But in San Juan County, where unemployment stands at 10 percent and the per-capita income is $14,000, the taking of artifacts for commercial gain has continued and helped to fuel a thriving trade in artifacts, including on eBay.
There are also inconsistencies in the handling of artifacts that add to ambivalence about the laws. The Bureau of Land Management has been known to smash pots and rock objects when there was no place to store them. And BLM and U.S. Forest Service agents were implicated in one of the recent search-warrant affidavits for taking and selling items themselves — an allegation the U.S. attorney's office won't comment on.
San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy (whoes brother was arrested in the latest raids) said he has tried in the past to get BLM agents to investigate artifacts he found in the course of drug arrests. But those things are still sitting in his evidence locker. Locals also express frustration that archeologists dig up artifacts that go into boxes at the University of Utah or to the Smithsonian Institution and are thus lost to local history.
Blanding's Edge of the Cedars Museum is trying to educate people about why they shouldn't pick up those items. The museum, which houses an estimated million artifacts confiscated from looters or donated by collectors, has a front room dedicated to explaining the laws and the reasons why, once items are removed without detailed archeological study, they lose their scientific context.
Even those who support the push against looting artifacts say the crackdown backfired on the government. "The whole point they wished to make is gone," said Winston Hurst, a Blanding native and archaeologist who has long fought against the digging up of ancient graves, a practice known locally as pot-hunting. "It's completely swamped by the ridiculous imagery of people in their flak jackets taking some old sucker, shackled hands and feet, and shuffling him into the slammer."
Source: Salt Lake City WeeklyRobert Begay, director of the Navajo Nation’s Department of Archaeology, acknowledges there are some obvious barriers to law enforcement protecting sacred sites.
“On the Navajo Nation, we just don’t have the resources or the money to actively enforce a lot of these laws,” Begay says. “We do what we can, but it’s not consistent.”
Beyond that, Begay cites estimates that there may be as many as 1 million small sacred sites spread across the Navajo Nation. The vulnerability of the sites themselves may also be the product of a cultural divide, as the prevailing attitude for many Navajo is that these sites aren’t meant for museums but are simply to be left alone.
“These [artifacts] belong to past peoples, the ancestors of the Navajo,” Begay says. “We have no right to disturb them.” For many American Indians, there’s a thin line between gravedigging done for profit and excavating in the name of science.
“It’s a cultural clash,” Cuch says. “One culture believes in leaving those things alone and honoring them by leaving them intact. The other culture believes in examining [artifacts] for two purposes: for educational and scientific knowledge or financial gain. The financial gain is purely dark and ugly. The educational and scientific [purposes] … the problem there is where do you stop digging?”
(Note: This blog was in my Draft File, thought I would post it before I left)